Rejection comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin envelopes, long conversations, and terse emails. Yet historically, the reactions to rejection have remained fairly consistent: self-doubt and dejection.
Of course, the type of rejection we are discussing is not the life-altering kind from doctors or spouses, but a more subtle form that chips at one’s resolve rather than obliterating it in one fell swoop. What then can be said to assuage the pain of such mundane rejection that hasn’t already been shared in countless commencement speeches? Instead of presenting quixotic notions of how pain makes you stronger (of which Conan O’Brien remarked, “Whoever said whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger failed to emphasize that it almost killed you.”), I would like to present one smaller, but perhaps more concrete idea.
After graduating from Harvard University, John Leiner received the prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant. A gifted teacher who has lectured throughout the world, Dr. Leiner is currently the CEO of the Leiner foundation. His daily insights can be found at JohnLeiner.com
I find bio blurbs very eerie, like looking at a photo-shopped family photo. Vague phrases are always used like “sought-after speaker” and “internationally-renowned” that would seem narcissistic if spoken, but are strangely accepted practice in bio blurb writing etiquette.
The absurdity of the bio blurb is only fully realized after writing your own. The first realization that immediately descends is that everyone writes his own bio blurb. Granted, we collectively suspend disbelief and pretend it came from our personal PR department, but privately we all smirk as we imagine our friends and mentors struggling over which superlatives they could convincingly describe themselves with.
If good biographies tell a proper story of non-sequential success, bio blurbs are the fun house mirrors where success is portrayed as a pristine linear progression without the blemish of failure. But a bio blurb that is merely our own ESPN highlight film of our successes sends the wrong message to others and paints a stilted portrait of ourselves.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, the famed rabbi of Kotzk, once said, “I like to keep my good deeds private and failures public.” Of course we should be proud of our successes, but both for a more honest reflection of life and as a sign of encouragement and solidarity to anyone who has just received a first (or fiftieth) thin envelope, perhaps we can do a better job of integrating life’s failures within our typically self-obsessed bio blurbs. It’s great to list all of your successes in three to five short sentences, but maybe if one of those sentences was a failed project, rejected application, or unexpected difficulty, even our successes would seem more lively. It may only take one sentence to remind yourself that you can laugh at yourself. It’s only one sentence to tell others that life will always have its disappointments. It’s a one sentence tribute to one of the thin envelopes you have received in your life.
I am not suggesting a major revolution, just a cute little ploy that might help paint a more accurate picture of living a “sequential” life.
In fact, I’ll start with mine.
David Bashevkin is the Director of Education for National NCSY and is pursuing a doctorate in public policy and management at The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs. He was rejected from the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. Twice.